Make and freeze pie crust: saving time — sooner or later

Warm apple pie à la mode. Super-smooth, luxurious pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream. Classic pecan pie, with its signature salt-sugar crunch in every rich bite. Homemade pie: what’s not to love? Well, maybe the fact that you need the time to put together the crust and get out your rolling pin and flour your counter and gently, GENTLY roll out the crust while hoping the pie gods smile on you… De-stress your life! When the pie urge hits, make and freeze pie crust is a game changer.

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

I won’t skate around the issue: compared to cookies, muffins, and most cakes, making pie crust can be a technical challenge, as well as a potential time sink. Working the fat (often two kinds) into the flour, nailing the right amount of liquid for optimum flakiness (and handle-ability), rolling without tearing or sticking, then oh-so-carefully transporting the resulting crust into its waiting pan — frankly, it can be a painful process, especially for those of us who don’t make pie frequently.

Your family deserves homemade pie, but who has time to make the crust? You do — when you plan ahead. Click To Tweet

Enter make and freeze pie crust. While it doesn’t shorten the overall pie-baking process, it does break it into more manageable steps. Make crust now, freeze it, and do the filling and baking later: when the blueberries are ripe or, say, the day before Thanksgiving.

What’s the best way to make and freeze pie crust?

It depends. When do you need to save the most time: now, or later? Making pie crust does take time, but the cadence of the process is up to you.

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Are you busy right now? Pie crumbs are fast and easy

Give yourself a head-start by making pie crumbs: combine flour, salt, and fat, then bag and refrigerate (or freeze) the crumbly mixture. It’s ready to be turned into pastry with the addition of liquid whenever you want. Especially if you have a stand mixer, this step is extremely quick; and you can easily make enough crumbs for multiple pies.

Plus: Very little up-front time and effort.
Minus: You still have to finish the pastry and roll it out later.

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Less busy? Make pastry, but skip the rolling

Make the pastry for crust, shape it into puck-like disks, wrap, and freeze. It’s ready to thaw, roll out, and fill when the pie urge strikes you.

Plus: No rolling pin, no floured counter, minimal cleanup.
Minus: You still have to leave yourself enough time to thaw the crust, roll it out, line the pan, add the filling, and bake the pie.

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Sufficient time, but not enough pie pans? Roll pastry and freeze

Once your pastry is made, roll it out and freeze it flat (rather than simply shape it into disks). Or fold it in quarters, or roll it into slim pastry tubes.

Plus: Pastry quickly thaws at room temperature, ready to line the pan.
Minus: It’s a bit trickier to find space in the freezer due to the pastry’s awkward shape (compared to space-optimizing disks).

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

For double protection, this bagged crust will go into another bag.

Plenty of time now, NO time later? Go all the way

To save the most time down the road, freeze rolled-out pastry right in its freezer-to-oven pan. When you’re ready for pie, all you need to do is haul that handy crust out of the freezer, add filling, and bake your pie, giving it a bit longer in the oven since the crust was frozen.

Making a custard-based pie (e.g., pumpkin), one whose crust might benefit by some pre-baking? Go ahead and blind-bake the crust, then freeze it in the pan. When the time comes, add filling and bake; no need to thaw the crust first.

Plus: No mixing bowl, no rolling pin, no cleanup — no stress!
Minus: A somewhat bulky space-hog in the freezer, and ties up your pans.

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

For all types of make and freeze pie crust —

  • Use a crust recipe that’s heavy on fat, light on liquid. The fewer the ice crystals from liquid, the more successfully pastry goes through the freeze-and-thaw cycle.
  • Wrap, and wrap again. Wrap dough disks in plastic wrap, then airtight in a plastic bag. Stack rolled-out crusts with waxed paper or plastic in between, and slip into a large plastic bag (or wrap securely in foil). Double-bag crusts in the pie pan. You’re trying to avoid both freezer burn and off flavors from surrounding foods.
  • Store crusts in the back or bottom of the freezer. The more they’re exposed to warm air when the freezer door’s opened, the more ice crystals develop.
  • Store crusts in the freezer no longer than three months (or one month for pre-baked crusts). Even the best-wrapped frozen crust will eventually deteriorate.

Make and freeze pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Are you pie crust-phobic? We can help; discover all kinds of handy tips and techniques in our complete guide to perfect pie crust.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Let your frozen crust thaw in the fridge overnight and then rest it at room temperature for about 15 minutes before attempting to roll out. If it starts to crack it means it’s still a little cold. Giving the chilled crust a few good whacks with your rolling pin can help make the crust become more pliable without warming it up too much. Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

  1. Judith Audin

    I want to make and freeze my pie crust in the disc or “puck” stage, but how should I defrost them? By the way, your blog on stand mixer pie crust is great!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Judith, you can defrost the disks of dough overnight in the refrigerator, or if you forget they’ll be ready to go after an hour on the counter. Susan

  2. Kathryn Craig

    My additional problem is travel. If I bake a pie on Tuesday, travel Wednesday and eat it Thursday, pie us less than perfect. I can prevalent a crust, carry in car and then add pumpkin filling in Weds night but what about other pies? Freeze dusk if crust and take in cooler? Give up pie perfection? Help.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kathryn, that sound tough! The best solution seems to be making and freezing your crust in advance, traveling with the frozen crusts in the cooler, putting them in the freezer on arrival, and waking up early on Thursday to assemble and bake the pies. I know that’s not exactly easy with other dishes competing for oven space, but it’s your best bet for perfect fruit pies, as they’ll tend to get soggy if left out. Alternatively, there are lots of amazing seasonal desserts besides pies that are a little more travel-friendly. We promise our Skillet Apple Cake, for example, would be a welcome addition to any holiday table. Whatever you decide, we hope you find the results your looking for! Happy baking! Kat@KAF

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